“The way our nation provides funding for VA health care must be reformed,” Obama wrote in an Oct. 28 letter to John Gage, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees. The current system, which often delays enactment of the VA’s funding for months past the start of each fiscal year on Oct. 1, too often leads “to delays in hiring and facility construction,” he said.
The VA spending bill has been signed into law by the start of the fiscal year only three times in the last 20 years. Veterans’ groups say it is impossible to run a health care system without knowing how much money will be available in the future.
Nine veterans groups have organized to make advance appropriations their top lobbying priority for the 111th Congress. But several key lawmakers, as well as some congressional institutions, are likely to line up against that approach.
Several sources with knowledge of past discussions on the subject say House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey , D-Wis., has been hesitant to support it.
Joseph Violante, national legislative director at the Disabled American Veterans, said leaders of both the Budget and Appropriations committees have resisted the notion.
“We get a lot of push back,” said Violante, whose veterans group is among those in the coalition. “They feel that they are abrogating their responsibilities in a way and we are trying to make sure that they understand that they are not.”